Jim Dant is available for event leadership around a variety of topics and themes. He regularly leads Bible study events, leads spiritual direction retreats and speaks at conferences on issues relating to ministry, culture and spirituality. Invite Jim to lead or speak at your event.
Editor’s note: Our own Jim Dant is running in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society ‘s Team In Training program, and is working to meet a fund-raising goal. If you can help, please do!
And with that said, allow me to say – THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!
to each of you who have donated to my fundraising efforts with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society ‘s Team In Training program! I’m 2/3 of the way to my goal of $3450!!!! THANK YOU!
Some of you have asked if I participate in this program because I have a family member who suffers from this disease. The answer is – no. No one in my family suffers from blood related cancers. I run and fundraise for friends who have the disease…and….in gratitude that no one in my family suffers from the disease. Thanksgiving isn’t a bad motivation!
So…whether you’re supporting someone in your family who has the disease or you’re just thankful your family has avoided this particular struggle….either circumstance is a great reason to give.
If you planned to send a donation my way but juuuuuuust forgot, here’s the website where you can make a quick, safe, tax deductable donation….
I’m thanking you ahead of time for your generous gift!
Again, thank you,
One of our cats urinated in the side-pocket of my gym bag. Parenthetical Statement #1 – (What a lousy way to begin blog.) Parenthetical Statement #2 – (I thought my wife was the only one irritated with the gym bag resting beside the sofa.) While I commend the accuracy of his aim, his choice of target may require a contract to be issued on his furry tail.
The timing of his discharge was insignificant compared to the timing of my discovery. The bag was packed and ready to go. I hastily picked it up and threw it in the back of the VW – as is my daily habit. Arriving at the gym, I grabbed the bag, stuffed it in a locker, and proceeded to push and punish by body for over an hour. I took a shower…and then…then I opened the bag to retrieve my clothes. BANG! An unseen acidic mushroom cloud rose from the vinyl-lined, portable locker.
What’s a guy to do? I got dressed. Trying to mask the odor that had penetrated my clothing, I dabbed on a bit of Aramis cologne. (Which I now realize smells a bit like cat urine.)
Not wanting to break the stride of my day, I headed to the coffee shop to write…and here I am. Several patrons have hurriedly passed my table, glancing in my direction with squinted, wondering eyes. A few others have outright stared. I’ve conjured several verbal responses to their odious ogling. Remaining close to the truth, “It’s the last bit of Aramis from a bottle I bought back in the 70’s.” To the guys, “Haven’t you ever smelled someone with an incredibly overabundant supply of testosterone?” And to this one cute blond chick, “I’m in heat…interested?” But if you think my wife gets mad about me leaving the gym bag lying around….
In the church, we are marked by baptism…and people should know it; they should just be able to tell. In life, we are often marked in other ways. We’re ‘cat people’ at our house. And in God’s creative construction of the feline framework, cat people get marked. I like God…most days.
(In what ways has baptism ‘marked’ your life? How can we more regularly present ‘baptismal influence’ to congregations…even during services when we are not celebrating baptism? Post a ‘comment’ and let us know.)
I am about to break the code. Like a magician sharing the secret of his sleight or a fraternal brother divulging the distinctive nature of a handshake, I am about to break the code. I recognize that I may incur the wrath of every former and present pre-pubescent male…but…the time has come. This breach of sacred secrets is prompted by my need to make amends – on all our behalves – to the Ministers of Music who have frantically flailed their arms before us in an effort to get us to sing together. Well, here goes…
We ‘back pew boys’ have been massacring hymn lyrics for decades. Our parents have watched us from the choir loft. They have gleamed with pride as they observe our smiling faces projecting sound at the top of our lungs. In the communal roar of the congregation, however, they could not hear our specific voices and vocalizations…thank God…
What ‘back pew boy’ has not sung…(to the tune of At the Cross)
At the bar, at the bar, where I smoked my first cigar
And the fumes of smoke rolled away (rolled away).
It was there, by chance, that I tore my Sunday pants
And now I have to where them everyday.
Or…(to the tune of The Old Rugged Cross)
On a hill far away, stood an old Chevrolet
It’s tires were all tattered and torn.
But I loved that old car…(etc, etc…)
And of course, that popular Easter classic…(to the tune of Low in the Grave He Lay)
Up from the grave he arose
With a great big pickle in his nose…
(Settle down, it’s only the hymnal, not the Bible.)
And finally…(to the tune of Lead on, O King Eternal)
Lead on, O Kinky Turtle
(and I’m not sharing the rest of those lyrics…)
Last week, a telemarketer contacted me at the church office. He was selling video/sound systems for worship centers (his language, not mine.) I told him we leaned a little more liturgical and had no need for the system. He quickly countered, “Dr. Dant, these systems give us the ability to feel the Spirit of God without having to fumble with pages and papers. As choruses, scriptures and outlines are projected on one single screen, we can corporately focus on this fixed point and the Spirit is better able to unite us as a body. Any church interested in experiencing spiritual and numeric growth would welcome these tools and methods of ministry.”
I further explained that I have never been critical of such tools and methods; I refuse to take up arms in the worship wars. I truly believe that people experience God and express their love for God in a multitude of ways. I am happy that other churches offer these avenues of praise. However, our church has enjoyed an influx of new members over the last decade – most are young adults with young children seeking to reunite with the traditional rituals of the faith. I ended my comments by inviting him to attend one of our services and get a taste of our style of worship. His response? He told me he wasn’t particularly religious and had not attended church since he was a child. Hmmm…. At that moment, I think God shed a tear. I also believe God chuckles at ‘back pew boys’ who massacre hymns. God knows you’re only teased if you’re loved. I like God.
(Feel free to share your ‘best’ abuse of a hymn.)
I am a SEST (Spouse of an Elementary School Teacher). It’s an exclusive club of primarily men who spend their lives listening to endless stories of children’s antics, administration’s shortcomings and parental idiocy. (Of course, I was once a child, have been a parent and currently engage in the art of administration. I listen…but I secretly sympathize with the enemies.)
The best part of being a SEST is time spent in the classroom. For one reason or another – delivering pizza to the class party, hanging posters in hard to reach places, or burying the dead goldfish – I occasionally get to be a fly on the wall of third grade. The conversations are priceless…
Last month, during the Winter Holiday season (school talk for Christmas), a young Jewish boy (the legitimate reason for school talk during Christmas) was explaining to a Christian classmate the historical origin of Chanukah. Upon finishing his story, the gentile guy aggressively responded, “My dad told me there’s no way a little bit of oil could have burned eight nights! Christmas is the only real holiday!” On cue, the kosher kid calmly replied, “Well, my dad told me virgins can’t have babies!” My wife intervened, but not before some little girl asked what oil and virgins have to do with each other. I actually had two answers. One had to do with the condiment aisle and the other had to do with a word that is often confused with condiment. But, I restrained myself. It’s not my classroom. And if I had responded, I would have had to deal with the antics of children, the administration and some idiotic parents…with whom I truly sympathize…
I can tolerate almost anything…but intolerance. When it comes right down to it, the things we believe are precious simply because we believe them. They are down right silly to those who don’t believe. We need to be okay with that. My silliness doesn’t have to trump your silliness. My truth doesn’t have to trump your truth. God has the power and right to reveal divine presence any way God chooses. God understands the connection between oil and virgins. I like God.
Photo by Mountainbread, Creative Commons License.
“I am alpha and omega…the beginning and the end.” It’s one of the ways God defines God’s self. It’s a short list of the places we can find easy audience with God – beginnings and endings.
I would concur with God. (Which is always a good thing.) God is easily glimpsed in beginnings and endings. Sunrises and sunsets – the beginnings and endings of a day – are mesmerizing moments displaying the artistic presence of God.
The birth of a child and the death of a loved one – the beginnings and endings of life – tug us toward spiritual affirmations and questions concerning the presence of God. Nativity and crucifixion, creation and apocalypse, baptism and resurrection, diagnosis and cure…well…you get the picture. God’s presence is more profoundly experienced during beginnings and endings – alpha’s and omega’s.
I spend most of my time, however, in between these extremes. It’s all those other letters (and their accompanying perceived divine absence) with which I struggle. They are the ones dominating the daily grind of my life – beta to psi, bet to shin, B to Y. I like God…but I do miss God sometimes…
(Excluding ‘A’ and ‘Z,’ can you think of a life-challenge that begins with every other letter of the alphabet? Post a comment and let us know.)
Jim Dant is a pastor and popular worshop, retreat and event leader. Learn more here.
This article first appeared on FaithLab Jan 12, 2009.
Photo by wildpianist.